Since being hired as the Mississippi State softball head coach on Thursday, June 23, 2011, Vann Stuedeman has invigorated the Bulldog program. In seven seasons, the Vestavia Hills, Ala., native has led the squad to six NCAA Tournament appearances and 33 or more wins in six of her seven campaigns.
In her most recent season, Stuedeman led the Bulldogs back to postseason contention for the second consecutive season, as State reeled off 38 wins and made their way to the Tucson Regional, marking a sixth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last seven years and the 14th in school history. That stretch mark the best since going seven out of eight years from 2002-09.
In a season that was marked with off the field battles, including the inspirational story of Alex Wilcox’s battle with ovarian cancer, Stuedeman rallied the 2018 squad to reach new heights and take down records that had stood for decades. With a 1-0 shutout over sixth-seeded Texas A&M on May 9, 2018, Stuedeman and the Bulldogs earned the program first SEC Tournament game since 2005. State’s postseason success continued Tucson Regional as MSU advanced to a regional final for the first since 2005.
Stuedeman closed her seventh season at the helm with 241 career wins, surpassing Kathy Arendsen for the second most wins by a MSU head coach.
At season’s end, MSU had drawn two of the program’s top 15 largest crowds in school history during the 2018 campaign, including 1,562 fans packing Nusz Park to witness the Bulldogs take on No. 5 Florida over Super Bulldog Weekend, which ranked as the third-highest crowd in program history. That gives Stuedeman 12 of the program’s top 15 crowds during her seven years at the helm, including the top four crowds.
The debut of SEC Freshman on the Year Mia Davidson in the Maroon and White was one of the biggest individual highlights of the 2018 season. Davidson, an All-SEC First Team honoree, not only set MSU’s freshman homerun record but broke the single-season home run record, closing the inaugural season with 19. Davidson was the first Bulldog to win Freshman of the Year since two-time All-American Courtney Bures brought home the honor in 2005.
Also named NFCA All-South Region Second Team, Davidson exploded on the scene and ranked as one of the best sluggers in the nation and finished as one of the top 10 finalists for Schutt Sports/NFCA National Freshman of the Year. Davidson ended her debut season leading the Bulldogs in nine offensive categories and ranked in the top 25 nationally in home runs per game (25th – 0.31), slugging percentage (23rd – 0.762), total bases (11th – 144) and home runs (11th – 19).
From the circle, the Bulldogs were led by senior Holly Ward, who turned in a record-breaking performance in her final season at State. From opening the season with just the program’s second perfect game in program history to leading the Bulldogs with a single-season record of nine shutouts, Ward rewrote the record book as the anchor of the Bulldog staff. She closed the season with a 1.43 earned run average, which ranked 23rd in the country, while her nine shutouts finished 17th nationally en route to NFCA All-South Region Second Team honors.
Rounding out the individual honors was shortstop Reggie Harrison, who’s defensive play in one of the toughest spots in the infield helped earn her NFCA All-South Region Third team accolades.
Last season, the Bulldogs found tremendous success in the SEC, which sent every team to the NCAA Tournament in 2017, the most ever sent by one conference. Under Stuedeman’s leadership, the Dogs reeled off four SEC series wins in the last five weekends, including defeating No. 16 Kentucky, No. 19 Georgia and No. 24 Arkansas. MSU’s four SEC series wins were the most since 2012, Stuedeman’s first year with the Maroon and White, while its nine ranked wins tied for the most in school history (2004). She also became the only coach in school history to record at least one ranked win in every season of their tenure.
One of the many highlights of the 2017 campaign came from Feb. 17 – March 10, as the Bulldogs reeled off 16-straight victories to tie a school record. That record was first set in 2006, from Feb. 10 – March 3. Along with one of the most impressive winning streaks in school history was the continued success of drawing fans to one of the best collegiate softball parks in all of America. A total of 2,946 fans made their way to Nusz Park for MSU’s first home weekend of SEC play, marking the largest such crowd in school history. State also drew 1,413 for the Saturday game against South Carolina for 2017 Super Bulldog Weekend, marking the third-largest SBW crowd in school history.
Individually, the Bulldogs had a number of standouts that led them back to the postseason, led by All-SEC First Team honoree Caroline Seitz. Seitz capped her career with the Maroon and White by becoming the 19th in school history and first since Chelsea Bramlett in 2010 to earn the honor. The Birmingham, Ala., native, who also was named NFCA All-South Region Second Team, blew up in the second half of the conference season. After struggling to start, Stuedeman’s star third baseman tore through the SEC slate, finishing the year leading the conference with seven home runs, 28 RBI, a .724 slugging percentage and 55 total bases, while finishing top 10 with a .368 clip, 28 hits and six doubles. Her hot streak began during MSU’s road series win at No. 19 Georgia, where she went 7-for-10 (.700) with 14 RBI, four home runs (two grand slams), four runs scored, a scorching 1.900 slugging percentage and a .667 OBP. She became the first player in school history to hit four home runs in an SEC weekend series and the first to hit a grand slam in back-to-back games.
For her efforts, Seitz was named SEC, Louisville Slugger NFCA and USA Softball Player of the Week honors. She became the second player in school history to win all three in the same week, joining former Bulldog All-American Iyhia McMichael (2004).
From the circle, the Dogs were led by senior Alexis Silkwood, who finished her career as MSU’s all-time leader in wins (59), strikeouts (552), complete games (50), innings pitched (665.0) and appearances (145). The NFCA All-South Region Second Team honoree became the first Bulldog in history to record 600-plus innings pitched and 500-plus strikeouts for her career. She also finished her career second in starts (96), third in saves (9) and tied for third in shutouts (13). Along with her 15 wins and 108 strikeouts, Stuedeman helped Silkwood become one of the nation’s top closers in 2017, as she recorded five saves (1st in SEC, 8th in NCAA). Her five saves tied her for sixth on the MSU single-season list.
Silkwood also became the 13th Bulldog in school history to reach the pro level, as she was selected in the fifth round (24th pick) by the Akron Racers in the 2017 NPF Draft. She is the third Bulldog to be selected in the NPF Draft since Stuedeman arrived in 2012, joining Alison Owen (2014) and Kayla Winkfield (2016).
Rounding out the individual honors was center fielder Amanda Ivy, who reeled off one highlight play after another in the outfield to earn All-SEC Defensive Team honors.
Stuedeman’s fifth season at the helm saw the Bulldogs capture 26 total wins and climb as high as 23rd in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25. Stuedeman’s club took on the third-toughest schedule in the nation, which featured five of its eight conference series coming against 2015 Women’s College World Series participants, while two others came against 2015 NCAA Super Regional participants. They played a total of 23 games against Top 5 opponents and 16 against 2015 WCWS teams.
Despite some struggles, the team still showcased extreme grit and toughness while playing in the toughest conference in the NCAA, as the SEC finished 2016 with the highest RPI among conference teams. With a total of 10 come-from-behind victories, Stuedeman maintains a reputation of fielding programs that fight until the final out. On her career, Stuedeman has 60 comeback victories. Her squads also continued to dominate late in games, as MSU finished 2016 with a 19-3 record when leading after five innings and a 19-2 mark when up after six. Stuedeman’s teams have been nearly flawless when holding the lead late in games, going 109-8 after five and 101-6 after six for her career.
Behind the play of senior Kayla Winkfield, a 2016 NPF draftee who led the SEC and stood ninth in the NCAA with six triples, the Bulldogs’ offense churned out 0.21 triples per game, finishing fourth in the SEC.
The 2016 Bulldogs tallied 15 sacrifice flies, which tied for fourth-most in program history. They also held true to the “We Don’t Move” mantra brought by the coaching staff, tallying 60 hit by pitches, which is third in the school record books.
Success continued for Stuedeman’s pitching staff in 2016, as State tallied 305 strikeouts. The total finished fifth in school history, as did MSU’s 5.41 strikeouts per seven innings average.
In 2015, Stuedeman led MSU to its fourth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance with 36 wins, marking just the second time in program history that had been accomplished (2002-05).
The Bulldogs carried a never-say-die attitude with them in 2015 as they recorded 15 come-from-behind wins to give Stuedeman a total of 50 comeback wins over her first four seasons in Starkville. Three Bulldogs were named to the NFCA All-South Region team in 2015, tying a season-best in the Stuedeman era that was set in 2013.
Alexis Silkwood tallied SEC Pitcher of the Week honors in back-to-back weeks (March 30 and April 6). The two SEC Pitcher of the Week awards marked the third-straight year with such an honoree, the longest stretch for the program since 2001-04.
Prior to Stuedeman taking over the program in 2012, MSU had seven total SEC Pitcher of the Week honors. In the five-year Stuedeman era, the Bulldogs have won seven. The 2014 Bulldogs’ four total SEC weekly honors are tied with the 2008 and 2004 squads for the second most in program history.
Stuedeman’s 2014 edition really took off, earning a program third-best 39 victories and an MSU second-best eight wins against ranked opponents. The Bulldogs made three-straight NCAA trips for the first time since 2007-09 and had three consecutive 30-win seasons for the first time since 1998-2008.
Included in the spring of 2014’s 39 victories were three-straight victories against top-five clubs with back-to-back wins against No. 3/2 Alabama on April 12-13 and a 2-0 triumph at No. 4/4 Tennessee on April 18. It was the first time the Bulldogs had won three consecutive games against ranked foes since taking seven straight from April 9-May 13, 2004, and the first time ever winning three straight against top-five opponents.
During the campaign, Stuedeman guided her squad to four wins versus top-five opponents in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) poll. Entering the year, the Bulldogs had won five games in program history versus top-five opponents.
Stuedeman’s 2014 team also earned three-straight Southeastern Conference series wins for the first time since April 6-21, 2012. The club started off on fire, winning 15-straight games, one game shy of the longest season-opening victory streak in program history.
Individually, Stuedeman helped Caroline Seitz to selections as a Top 25 Finalist for the inaugural NFCA Freshman of the Year Award and NFCA All-South Region First Team honors. Seitz became the sixth freshman in program history to earn all-region honors, the initial under Stuedeman and the first since Ka’ili Smith in 2009.
Seitz was joined by Alexis Silkwood on the SEC All-Freshman Team. The two selections are tied for the most in a year in MSU history.
Silkwood used Stuedeman’s guidance in the pitching circle to turn in one of the most successful rookie campaigns in program history. Silkwood set the MSU freshman record for strikeouts in a season with 167 and set the rookie single-game record with 13 whiffs against Texas Southern in the NCAA Tournament.
Following two impressive outings at No. 4/4 Tennessee, Silkwood was named the April 21 SEC Pitcher of the Week as well as the Feb. 17 and March 3 SEC Freshman of the Week. Alison Owen was also tabbed as the April 14 SEC Pitcher of the Week.
After becoming the winningest first-year head coach in school history (.579/33-24 record) in 2012, Stuedeman followed up with another 33-24 campaign and a second-straight NCAA Tournament bid in 2013. The 2013 Bulldogs were named an Easton Team of the Year, joining Women’s College World Series participants Florida and Texas.
During 2013, Owen’s first year on the active roster, she became the first pitcher in school history to receive SEC Pitcher of the Week honors in consecutive weeks, earning the nods on Feb. 25 and March 4. Owen established the single-game Mississippi State record for strikeouts with 16 against SIU-Edwardsville on Feb. 24 and was selected as the March 5 CollegeSportsMadness.com National Pitcher of the Week.
Stuedeman guided the pitching staff to a pair of no-hitters in 2013, the most by the program in a year since tossing four in 2006.
Offensively, Stuedeman’s aggressive approach helped the team tie the program record for stolen bases per game with 2.00 and total the second-most swipes in a campaign in MSU history with 114. The approach at the plate translated into a program-record 51 home runs, besting the previous mark by four.
Stuedeman helped Owen earn a spot on the NFCA All-South Region Second Team at the end of the year. Owen was joined on the squad by Logan Foulks and Sam Lenahan. It was only the fourth time in program history having three or more selections.
The pitching development and philosophies Stuedeman brought from the University of Alabama, where she was known as a pitching genius in 11 years as the Crimson Tide pitching coach, paid huge dividends during her initial season. She took a school record-high 4.90 earned-run average from 2011 and with the same group of five pitchers, cut the ERA to 2.88 in 2012. Stuedeman also helped the pitching staff improve from 2011 to 2012 in: wins (24 to 33), complete games (12 to 20), no-hitters (zero to one), hits allowed (435 to 310), runs allowed (313 to 194), strikeouts (242 to 358), home runs allowed (50 to 27) and opponent batting average (.300 to .224).
Individually, Stuedeman coached Stephanie Becker to a career year. Against eventual Women’s College World Series participant South Florida, Stuedeman called her 24th career no-hitter. Later in the year, Becker became the first Bulldog pitcher since Stephanie Comeaux in 2006 to be named SEC Pitcher of the Week after picking up three conference victories in a series sweep versus Kentucky.
Stuedeman also focused heavily on improving the defense. She succeeded, increasing the Bulldogs’ fielding percentage from 2011 to 2012 by nine points (.954 to .963). Her staff gave up 154 earned runs in 2012, almost 100 fewer than the previous spring.
In 2012, Stuedeman took MSU to its first NCAA Tournament since 2009, she became one of only two first-time head coaches to make the field of 64. With 33 overall wins, Stuedeman guided MSU to its first 30-win season since 2008, despite having the fourth-toughest strength of schedule in the nation.
Fully buying into Stuedeman’s system paid dividends at the end of the year, when the Bulldogs won 14 of their last 20 contests, including a 12-game winning streak from April 10 - May 4, 2012.
Prior to the NCAA Tournament, Stuedeman led the Bulldogs to their 12th Southeastern Conference Tournament berth with 12 SEC wins, the most for MSU since 2008. For the first time since 2001, MSU swept back-to-back three-game series and won six consecutive conference games.
Outside the SEC, Stuedeman was dominant. Mississippi State won 21 non-conference games and recorded 13-straight non-conference triumphs. It was the longest streak since a school-record 16-consecutive contests to begin the 2006 season.
On the road, the 2012 Bulldogs broke the school record for true road wins in a season with number 13 coming at Auburn on May 4, 2012. The eight SEC road wins were the most for the Bulldogs since eight in 2001.
Within Mississippi, Stuedeman has shined brightest. Stuedeman has only dropped two games to in-state foes during her tenure, while winning seven of her nine meetings with Ole Miss.
One of the key principles under Stuedeman has been having success in the late innings. The 2012 club outscored opponents 64-31 after the fifth. State went 9-7 in one-run games, its best winning percentage in one-run games since 2002. The Bulldogs were unbeaten when leading late during the year, finishing 21-0 when ahead after the fifth inning.
Offensively in her first year, Stuedeman oversaw a lineup that set a then-school record for single-season walks (202), while finishing in the top 10 in runs, home runs, slugging percentage and stolen bases. Stuedeman coached MSU’s first SEC Player of the Week since 2010, two SEC Players of the Week in the same season for the first time since 2004 and MSU’s second National Player of the Week.
Prior to her arrival in Starkville, Stuedeman helped Alabama claim three SEC regular-season titles en route to reaching the Women’s College World Series six times.
As an assistant coach since 2001, Stuedeman helped the Crimson Tide go 579-150 from 2000-11 (.794), including a sparkling 243-70 record inside the SEC. Stuedeman anchored a staff that had an ERA under 2.00 in eight of her 11 campaigns, struck out an average of 485 batters per season and held opponents scoreless in 221 games. The 2011 staff led the SEC in ERA, giving Stuedeman’s staff a top-20 ERA nationally in five of the previous six seasons before she left Alabama.
Stuedeman coached six All-American pitchers with 11 All-America and All-SEC honors while in Tuscaloosa. Under her instruction, Tide pitchers registered 23 no-hitters, including three perfect games. Three times Stuedeman coached the SEC Pitcher of the Year, while racking up 19 SEC Pitcher of the Week honors. She also coached two SEC Freshman of the Year and one SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player.
In 2011, Stuedeman tutored the pitching staff to a 1.69 ERA, a 53-10 record and third-place finish at the Women’s College World Series. The staff included a pair of All-American pitchers in Kelsi Dunne and Jackie Traina. Dunne, a volunteer assistant coach at Mississippi State in 2012, capped her career with a 29-5 record and a 1.42 ERA. The right-hander struck out 331 batters and held opponents to a school-record .146 average. Dunne also tossed three no-hitters and posted 11 shutouts. Traina went 19-5 with a 1.70 ERA, adding 190 strikeouts in 156.1 innings with two no-hitters, three shutouts and four saves.
Prior to joining Alabama, Stuedeman coached at West Alabama, Alabama-Huntsville and East Limestone High School. The Birmingham, Ala., area native graduated in 1994 from Huntingdon College, where she helped the Hawks to two third-place finishes at the national tournament (1992 and 1994). The 1994 All-American was inducted into her alma mater’s Hall of Fame on Oct. 8, 2011.
Stuedeman served as a graduate assistant at the University of West Alabama from 1995-96 while earning her master’s degree in elementary education, helping lead the team to the Gulf South Conference championship in 1995 while the team’s head coach was away from the team on maternity leave. The championship and winning season was the first in the ’90s for the West Alabama program.
After spending two seasons at UWA, Stuedeman went to the University of Alabama-Huntsville for three years as an assistant for her sister, Les Stuedeman, and worked with pitchers and outfielders. During her stint, the UAH pitching staff ranked in the top five in Division II in ERA. She helped lead the program to two Gulf South Conference championships, three NCAA Regional appearances and a trip to the 1999 Division II National Tournament. She was also part of the staff that was named South Region Coaching Staff of the Year in 1999.
She then accepted the head coaching position at East Limestone High School, in Athens, Ala., where she led the team to its first winning season since 1994